Aurora agency files appeal to win back state contract for homeless vets development

Efforts to construct a veterans housing complex near the former military hospital were for years met with indifference at the state level until a pair of former state lawmakers helped pass a bill during last year’s legislative session that called for the construction of a housing facility at the north Aurora plot, Hogan said

AURORA | The Aurora Housing Authority, an arm of the city dedicated to developing affordable housing projects, filed a formal appeal with the Colorado Department of Human Services Wednesday in a last-ditch attempt to win a coveted long-term lease for a parcel of land north of the Anschutz Medical Campus, a DHS spokesperson confirmed March 16.

The appeal comes about a week after the Housing Authority learned it was not chosen to erect a new affordable housing development for homeless veterans on a 15-acre plot of land near the corner of Peoria Street and Montview Boulevard. Following a request for proposals process earlier this year, DHS chose the only other developer that responded to the RFP, the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, to construct the housing project.

That decision, handed down by DHS March 6, nettled several city officials, including Mayor Steve Hogan, who had worked on getting the development off the ground for more than a decade. Efforts to construct a veterans housing complex near the former military hospital were for years met with indifference at the state level until a pair of former state lawmakers helped pass a bill during last year’s legislative session that called for the construction of a housing facility at the north Aurora plot, Hogan said.

The Department of Human Services obtained ownership of the contentious land after the military deeded it to the state following closure of the Fitzsimons Army Medical Center in the late 1990s.

As part of that closure, the state became required to construct a housing option for displaced veterans under a provision of the McKinney-Vento Act, according to Craig Maraschky, executive director of the Aurora Housing Authority.

And while a portion of that provision was fulfilled with the construction of the Colorado State Veterans Home on Quentin Street, the permanent housing development for younger veterans was never brought to fruition, Maraschky said.

In its bid for the veterans project, the Aurora Housing Authority proposed building a 30-unit development for a total cost of about $8.6 million, according to Maraschky, who said the project would largely be founded by HUD-VASH (Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing) program vouchers. Maraschky said the Housing Authority has already been in contact with the Department of Veterans Affairs to get a jump on navigating the approval process.

The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless is proposing a 60-unit development funded by state dollars and low-income housing tax credits, according to Cathy Alderman, a spokeswoman for the organization.

Jeremy Hill, director of procurement for DHS, will render a decision on the final recipient of the contract by March 24, DHS spokeswoman Laura Morsch-Babu confirmed.